Communication is key in any relationship and it is no different between a child and an adult. However, deciphering what a young child means and responding in a clear and simple manner can sometimes present a challenge. Helping an older child to continue their language journey is important but how do you know which strategies will help?
From a very early age, babies learn to communicate with their parents and carers. Crying is the first form of communication that informs us that they need something. When a child is approximately 6 months old, they develop the ability to babble and 6 months later, this turns into their first words. By the time a child is around 24 months old, they will be stringing words together.
Babies and toddlers are hugely receptive to their environment and soak up everything around them. Providing a running commentary of what you are doing such as getting them dressed, making a cup of tea or driving to the shops can expose them to a variety of language. Simply walking to the park and explaining the sights and sounds along the way will enrich their vocabulary and provide them with skills they need for description.
There is nothing better when it comes to developing language than reading stories to young children. Whether it is a simple book naming animals or a story describing the setting, characters and plot, your child will enjoy the rhythm, soak up the words and begin to see how sentences are formed to convey messages. They will understand an awful lot more than they will be able to say, however, through repetition and a positive association with books, a child will eventually take risks and explore the use of these words on their own.
Songs allow children to learn a lot of skills and the melody helps them to remember the words along with actions. Repetition is another key component with songs as children learn to repeat these back to adults. Not only does singing support children through language development but it is also fun and allows them to build confidence through their own expression.
Helping Older Children:
By the time a child turns six, they will hopefully have mastered the simple components of language and be able to express themselves to others. Selecting interesting books that they will enjoy will help to foster a love of reading. However, it is important to continue to challenge a child by selecting a book that has new vocabulary for them to learn. Talking with children and encouraging them to describe situations, put forward their opinions and lead a conversation is a great way to build confidence in speech and to help them if they stumble or struggle to articulate an idea.
Developing language is different for every child and some will struggle more than others. Persevering and praising a child for what they can do will have a hugely positive effect on their approach to learning, building their confidence in taking risks and attempting to articulate difficult ideas where possible. Be patient and be a positive reading role model to make a difference in their speech and language development.